Sunday, January 01, 2006

SIRIUS impressions

One of my first impressions of using SIRIUS was that it felt very much like listening to my dad's shortwave radio as a kid. Wandering the dial, unsure of what I'd run across and often being pleasantly surprised by what I find.

The sound quality adds to this sentimental impression. The quality is good, about like any FM station one can tune in, but the combination of signal compression on SIRIUS' end, less-than-perfect antenna reception and the fact that my SIRIUS tuner broadcasts the signal to the FM radios in my apartment make for an interesting departure from the "digital quality music" that is advertised by both satellite radio companies, recalling the occasional dips in signal quality common with shortwave reception.

I have finally found an antenna location inside that seems to provide a consistent and medium-strong satellite signal to the tuner. It's as close to my bedroom window as it can be, about halfway up, pointing north and slightly northeast. Interestingly, Sirius has ground-level repeaters in many major cities to improve reception and I receive a signal from both satellite and ground sources. Occasionally I'll receive an "Acquiring signal" message on the receiver for a few seconds, but for the most part the signal has been uninterrupted and strong all day today. I expect reception to be even better in my truck since there should be fewer obstructions for that antenna.

A paradigm-shifting event happened to me today as a result of having access to SIRIUS content. Usually when I have a snack or eat a meal I'll turn on the TV because I can't read and it gives my eyes something to do while my mouth is working. Today I actually put a chair in front of my SIRIUS tuner and explored the channels while eating. Chips and salsa in one hand, my SIRIUS remote in the other! For an audio medium to pull interest away from a visual one is a big deal. I kept surfing SIRIUS even after I finished eating.

So far some of my favorite channels are: BBC Radio 1 (ch. 11); Jazz standards (ch. 75); Pops classical (ch. 86); Coffee House (ch. 30); Howard Stern (ch. 100); Soul Town (ch. 53); and 80's hits (ch. 8). I also discovered that I like bluegrass (ch. 65)! I've also always had a penchant for high-energy dance / electronic music (ch. 33). It just never ends. There's even a channel dedicated to the old classic radio shows and dramas of the 30's and 40's (ch. 118). Any time I hear an artist or song I like I can tell my tuner to remember it and have it notify me the next time the artist or song is on any of the SIRIUS channels. This memory function applies to sports teams also.

After a few days of using this service I have to say it's one of the best purchases I've made in a long time. I suppose I could get by listening to random music on terrestrial radio, not knowing the names of new artists or new songs I like, but why would I when this service is available? I expect my praise to grow once I have the antenna installed in my truck and can totally immerse myself in all of the content.

Related posts: Sirius activation; Stern on 60 Minutes

CLARIFICATION, 1/1: The second sentence in the paragraph about me listening to SIRIUS while eating could be interpreted to mean that I don't know how to read. This alternate interpretation became apparent to me upon revisiting this post and made me laugh out loud. What I intended to convey is that I don't like to read while I eat due to book logistics (holding the book open and reading between bites is very annoying to me) and the desire to avoid foodstuffs and spills on my reading material. I thought the clarification warranted a mention lest you all think I merely bang away here, dropping marbles on my keys, somehow managing to compose and publish this blog oblivious to the meaning of the written words that result.


bboyneko said...

DO NOT USE THE FM degrades the sound quality IMMENSELY. Using the FM modulator is like taking a DVD, converting to VHS then watching it.

What you need to do is use the sirius line out and connect DIRECTLY to the RCA input of your stereo or use a cassette tape adaptor. The departure from digital quality you mention is because you are using the crappy fm modulator.

Throw the fm modulator antenna away and get a direct input, the difference in sound is like night and day.

Kevin said...

bboyneko: Thanks for the advice. I will certainly do what you suggest at some point. Unfortunately cable length and tuner/stereo location prevent me right now from doing the direct RCA input at home. I may be able to do the direct connect in my vehicle, but removing my dashboard and factory radio is a job I can't do on my own.

Since finding a good satellite antenna location for home I've found the sound quality is more than acceptable. We'll see how it sounds in the vehicle with the FM modulator.